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Who Rules America? Class Warfare in 2012

Politics / US Politics Aug 22, 2012 - 02:01 PM GMT

By: Paul_Craig_Roberts


Diamond Rated - Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleThe media are filled with stories claiming that the Obama vs. Romney race is all about class warfare. I have my doubts. Here is why.

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, in their then-anonymous tract, The Manifesto of the Communist Party(1848), began chapter 1 with these words: "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles."

You would be hard-pressed to find any theory of history more wrong-headed than this one.

To prove their case, they should have defined "class." They never did. In the unpublished third volume of Das Kapital, Marx wrote this: "The first question to he answered is this: What constitutes a class? – I see. The first question. This appears in Chapter 52. Three paragraphs later, the manuscript broke off.

This was written around 1865. He died in 1883. He never wrote another book. It appeared in 1895. Engels edited it. It would have helped if Marx had told us what a class is. In The Manifesto, he followed sentence one with this:

Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

I see. And what of these conflicts: racial, religious, linguistic, tribal, and geographical? Nothing to them, Marx said. Illusions. They are nothing more than conflicts over the social superstructure. The mode of production: that is what counts. Always. Just find out the answer to this: Who owns the tools of production? Then you will be able to know who the players are in world history.

Then what was the wave of the future, according to Marx? The conflict between the proletarians and the capitalists. The proletarian revolution will overthrow the rule of capitalists forever, he said.

The proletarian is the factory laborer. What percentage of the American work force is involved in manufacturing? About 10%. It was 30% in 1950. About 83% were involved in services in 2007.

Nice try, Karl. Thanks for playing. Thanks for all those slogans: "class struggle," "revolutions are the locomotives of history," "the mode of production," and "cash nexus." Great stuff! Any proletarian in the West can search for them on Google. He will not be disappointed.

Until approximately December 31, 1991, the day the Communist Party of the Soviet Union disbanded and abolished the Soviet Union, Communists and Marxists were taken seriously by Western scholars as legitimate participants in academic discussion. On New Years Day, 1992, the entire academic world dropped Marxism into the ash can of history, to use the convenient phrase of Trotsky/Bernstein. What a difference a day makes. Eggheads respect power. When the Commies lost power, the eggheads abandoned them.

Nice try, Vladimir. Thanks for playing. Thanks for causing 100 million deaths as a direct result of Marx's theory of history. Thanks also for Hitler. Without you, Hitler would have been an unemployed former corporal.

Ideas have consequences.


I searched Google for "Obama, Romney, and "class warfare." I got over 1,000,000 hits.

Conclusion: old slogans live on long after they have ceased to be relevant. That's what gives us columnists fodder for our digital cannons.

I liked this from The Daily Beast, better known as the dying beast. It is what remains of Newsweek. We are told that Republicans have long played the class warfare card.

Richard Nixon seethed with class anger. "What starts the process really are laughs and slights and snubs when you are a kid," he confided to a friend. "Sometimes it's because you're poor or Irish or Jewish or Catholic or ugly or simply that you are skinny. But if you are reasonably intelligent and if your anger is deep enough and strong enough, you learn that you can change those attitudes by excellence, personal gut performance, while those who have everything are sitting on their fat butts."

Read this again. Where is the class anger? He was talking about opportunity and personal performance. He was talking about an economic system that let a lower-middle-class boy like Nixon earn a B.A. degree from the elitist private school Whittier College and a law degree from Duke University. It's about those on the bottom as kids being able to climb to the top. Its about social resentment, not class warfare. It's the kid who was pushed around getting even.

Social resentment probably motivated Nixon to get even with his many enemies until they finally got him. The same resentment motivated Lyndon Johnson. How he hated Bobby Kennedy and his Harvard cohorts! He did not hate Republicans with anything like this hatred. The Republicans could not beat him in 1964. Goldwater and he were both rich. He did not despise Goldwater. His hatred of Bobby was social envy, not class warfare. Bobby went to Harvard. Johnson went to Southwest Texas State Teachers' College.

The article went on.

Then there are the more recent examples. In 1988, George H.W. Bush accused Michael Dukakis of having learned his views in "Harvard Yard's boutique," a bastion of "liberalism and elitism."

Let me add a single word. This word will help us to understand the nature of class warfare in American presidential politics.

Then there are the more recent examples. In 1988, George H.W. Bush, Yale, accused Michael Dukakis of having learned his views in "Harvard Yard's boutique," a bastion of "liberalism and elitism."

Here, my friends, is a serious rivalry: Harvard vs. Yale. It goes back over 300 years. Think of the election of 1912: Teddy Roosevelt (Harvard, Porcellian Club) vs. William Howard Taft (Yale, Skull & Bones) vs. Woodrow Wilson (Johns Hopkins). Wilson was the outsider. Princeton came late.

Here was the "deep proletarian issue" of Wilson's career. He had resigned as president of Princeton College after he lost a crucial battle – the first loss in his academic career and the last until the debate over the League of Nations. He had tried to abolish the eating clubs (elitist) and replace them with common dining halls. He never forgave the elitists. He quit to run for governor of New Jersey in 1910.

Yes, I see! A man of the people! The proletarians' representative!

Consider the inter-campus rivalry in recent years. There was a breather in 1992: Bush (Yale) vs. Clinton (Yale Law School). Then came 2000. It heated up again: Gore (Harvard) vs. Bush, Jr. (Yale). But this was not a full-scale confrontation. Bush also went to Harvard Business School. Then, the nation got another breather. It was John Kerry, Yale (Skull & Bones) vs. Bush, Yale (Skull & Bones). In 2008, an outsider entered the fray: McCain (Annapolis). He battled Obama (Harvard Law). Today, Yale is on the outs. It's Harvard Law vs. Harvard Law, plus Harvard MBA (Romney earned both in one shot).

Dr. Obama, J.D., vs. Dr. Romney, J.D., MBA. Class warfare. Yes. I read it in The Daily Beast.

"Workers of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains."


Back in 1976, an insightful author named Susan Huck wrote an article for American Opinion, " the monthly magazine of the John Birch Society. She was commenting on the supposedly titanic presidential struggle between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. She described it as a battle between CFR Team A and CFR Team B. I have used that designation ever since. This is one of the most profound insights into 20th-century American politics that anyone has ever written. I can think of no textbook, no sophisticated statistical study, that comes closer to what is really involved every four years, when the Republican Party and the Democratic Party battle for control of the White House.

I remember the statement by Carter's right-hand man, Hamilton Jordan (pronounced Jerden).

"If, after the inauguration, you find a Cy Vance as secretary of state and Zbigniew Brzezinski as head of national security, then I would say we failed. And I'd quit.'"

We find this statement quoted over and over. It was a classic statement, and it was made even more classic by the fact that it happened, and Jordan did not quit. It was almost a perfect forecast of what was about to happen, and he did not see the irony after it happened of what had just happened. He had called it perfectly, and he said it would be a complete betrayal of what they had been involved in, and when the betrayal was complete, he did not quit.

He was unbelievably naïve. He believed all the rhetoric of Carter's populism. He did not understand what it meant when Carter was brought into the Trilateral Commission by David Rockefeller in the first year it began, 1973. That was three years before the election. Carter was the hand-picked man of David Rockefeller, and Jordan was simply a convenient technician hired by Carter to get him elected.

A major Establishment book on the control of American foreign-policy by the Council on Foreign Relations, The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made (1986), was written by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas. Isaacson graduated from Harvard in 1974. In 1996, Isaacson became senior editor of Time magazine. He became chairman and CEO of CNN in 2001, and then president and CEO of the Aspen Institute in 2003. An insider? You had better believe it. He is the author of the best-selling biography of Steve Jobs. Thomas ever since 1991 has been the assistant managing editor at Newsweek. He formerly worked for Time. He teaches journalism at Princeton. An insider? You had better believe it.

Let me show you how these two shrugged off Jordan's statement a decade later.

The fact that Carter hired both men – and the Jordan did not quit – was held out of the time as evidence that the Eastern Establishment was alive, well, and still indispensable. But in fact the selection of Brzezinski and Vance showed precisely the opposite. Brzezinski and Vance were only superficially similar. True, they were both members of the Trilateral Commission, David Rockefeller's elite international meeting group, and regulars at the Council on Foreign Relations. But, in fact, they couldn't have been more different (p. 726).

This is the heart, mind, and soul of the magnificent deception that has been going on in the United States ever since the election of 1932. The textbooks never tell you that, before he was elected Governor of New York in 1928, Franklin Roosevelt had worked on projects with Herbert Hoover. They knew each other personally. Yet if you look at the major biographies of Roosevelt, this period of his life, when he was a corporate bond salesman for Wall Street, is conveniently ignored.

There have been only two major presidential elections since 1932 that did not conform to this Punch and Judy arrangement. One was in 1964, when Goldwater was able to get the Republican nomination, and the Eastern Republican Establishment literally walked out of the convention, and then spent the rest of the summer torpedoing Goldwater's campaign. The other exception, which was only a partial exception, was Reagan's election in 1980. His new Chief of Staff was James Baker III. Baker, then as now, was one of the chief advisors to George H. W. Bush. The Reagan administration was run by Bush's men, with only a few exceptions, for all eight years. Then Bush replaced him.

The American people, decade after decade, generation after generation, are persuaded that presidential elections are fought over fundamental differences regarding the way the world works and the way the world ought to work. Yet every newly inaugurated President brings in his senior advisers, most of whom are men recruited by the Council on Foreign Relations, and some have been trained in the Trilateral Commission. This never gets any attention by the media, because the media at the top are run by members of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission.

The typical Republican conservative is aware of none of this. He perhaps has heard a hint or two about it, but he has never spent any time reading the literature that has been produced by conservatives regarding this arrangement ever since the publication of Dan Smoot's book in 1960, The Invisible Government. The importance of the Skull and Bones connection goes back to the mid-nineteenth century. How is it that an organization that only takes 15 members a year has elected three Presidents, and would have elected a fourth in 2004 if John Kerry had won.

I find it very difficult to believe class warfare in United States had its incarnation in the election of 2004. Somehow, the thought of the proletarian masses going to the barricades after the defeat of John Kerry by George W. Bush is a difficult image for me to picture. First of all, there are no proletarian masses. Second, I don't think anybody in Skull and Bones represents them. I don't think anybody at the Harvard Law School represents them.

What I do believe is that there are factions within the American political establishment, just as there are within any establishment. I think they sort out over such issues as Saudi Arabian oil versus the foreign policy of the state of Israel. I think this division has been going on since at least 1948. The big banks and big oil are in cahoots together, because that is where the money is. But the question of the sovereignty of the state of Israel is nevertheless an important foreign-policy question, and so there is a constant trade-off between the special interests of the two factions.

There are certainly conflict between Republicans and Democrats. Each side wants to get its share of the booty after each election. But the nation is almost evenly divided, as never before in its history. We have a situation in which the Democrats won the presidency for two terms under Clinton, and the Republicans won the presidency for two terms under George W. Bush. This has never happened before in American history. No two-term President has ever been followed by another two-term President of the rival political party. If Obama wins, he will be a two-term President of a rival political party following the previous two-term President. The voters seem is divided as Team A and Team B of the Council on Foreign Relations.


At the margin, one group or the other gets some benefits. One group or the other gets to preside over a giant federal bureaucracy in which virtually all of the employees are protected by Civil Service legislation, so no President has the power firing more than a few hundred of them.

No one is talking about the unfunded liabilities of the United States government, which are now in the range of $222 trillion. Nobody is talking about closing Guantanamo Bay prison, even though Obama promised that he would when he ran back in 2008. Nobody is talking about an immediate withdrawal of troops out of Afghanistan.

So, where is the great debate? It isn't about Medicare, Social Security, Afghanistan, the war on terror, Federal Reserve policy, a Federal Reserve audit, immigration, tax policy, or even the extension of the Bush tax cuts. Where exactly is the great ideological battlefield on which class warfare is being conducted?

There comes a time when people ought to face reality. I realize that, for the vast majority of Americans, such a time has not yet arrived. It arrived for me no later than 1968.

I voted for Richard Nixon in 1968 for only one reason: to get even with the mainstream media for their defense of Soviet spy Alger Hiss, and their tarring and feathering of Nixon as late as 1962 for being the politician, more than any other, who got Hiss convicted of perjury for his lying denial of having committed espionage for the Soviet Union. I figured revenge is a legitimate political motivation, so I voted for Nixon. That was the last time I voted for either CFR Team A or CFR Team B.

Paul Craig Roberts

Paul Craig Roberts [ email him ] was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan's first term.  He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal .  He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Mitterrand. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider's Account of Policymaking in Washington ; Alienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy , and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice . Click here for Peter Brimelow's Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.

© 2012 Copyright Paul Craig Roberts - All Rights Reserved
Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

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22 Aug 12, 22:35
Marx is a dead horse.

Instead of beating dead horse Marx, you should be taking on someone with a more contemporary analysis, like M. Hudson in The Bubble and Beyond, who says the struggle is not between industrial capitalists and industrial workers, but between the non-producing parasitic finance, insurance, real estate sector (FIRE) and everyone else. Analysis of US elections as contests between CFR team A and CFR team B is right on, but your article doesn't live up to its title.

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